College Football Picks: Back California +7 vs. Utah In Battle of Pac-12 Contenders

Joe Gavazzi

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 8:47 PM GMT

California and Utah, two ranked opponents with perfect records clash for Pac-12 supremacy in a game that provides our Big Dog of the Week college football pick.

California vs. Utah (-7), Saturday, October 10, 10:00 ET ESPN
This is the late night (east coast) Pac-12 duel between a pair of surprise contenders for Pac-12 supremacy.  The Cal Bears, undefeated at 5-0 SU, visit the Utah Utes, also undefeated at 4-0 SU, for this 10:00 ET kick.  In this battle of “unbeatens,” we will side with the undefeated underdog with their vastly improved defense, a recent winning road log and the better QB.   It is also an ideal situation, based on Utah’s performance the last time they took the field.

It has been 2 weeks since Utah went into Oregon as 14-point underdog and returned to Salt Lake City with a (62-20) victory.  In that game, the Utes were a member of the 200 CLUB, running and passing for at least 257 yards, while profiting from a (+3) net TO margin.  Those types of statistics will win you a lot of CFB bets.  But, the 62-20 scoreboard victory far belied how the game was played on the field.  Nonetheless, it zoomed the Utes to the No. 7 position in the Coaches’ Poll.   Talk about the challenge that 11th year Utah HC Whittingham must have faced in keeping his team focused for this meeting with a California team, whom they beat (49-27) in their most recent meeting in 2012.  The Utes have stayed true to their profile.  Year after year, they outrush the opposition, get out passed by their foes and continue to record consistent winning records.  Despite what is often a season in which they get outgained in net yards by the opposition.  It is a formula that has worked well for Whittingham and the Utes and one in which I do not expect him to change, as he has one of the best running backs in CFB this season in RB Booker.  What has changed is the complexion of the Cal Bears.

Under 3rd year HC Sonny Dykes, the Bears have gone 1-11 SU, 2-9 ATS in 2013, being outscored 46-23, to a 5-7 SU, 6-5 ATS team in 2014, then continuing to ramp up (with 17 RS and veteran line play) to a 5-0 SU mark this season.  This will be their biggest challenge, but one they are ready to meet.  Cal has always been great on the offensive side of the ball under Dykes.  That continues this year with senior signal caller, QB Goff, who is leading the Bears to 43 PPG and 528 YPG.  But, the real changes have come on the defensive side of the ball, where the Bears have forced 18 TOs, gotten to the QB 18 times, and reduced their defensive allowance from 40/512 last year to 23/387 this year.  Not that we are nominating Cal as a Defensive Dandy, but there is clearly meaningful improvement.  In addition, this has been a solid role for HC Dykes, who has a recent record of 13-6 ATS as road dog, including covering all 5 chances in that role last season.

When the situation, the stats and the technicals all agree, we can only make this undefeated road dog our college football pick as Big Dog of the Week, a game which sees the college football odds clearly in our favor.   

College Football Picks: California +7 at Pinnacle 

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